Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Taiwan here we come ! ! !

People like me who have lived in Taiwan and studied Chinese tend to have our own favorite places to visit in Taipei and Taiwan as tourists . . . .

Taiwan was called "Formosa" ("beautiful") by the Portugese, and this 1640
Dutch map wonderfully conveys the beautiful topography of the island. The
map orientation is north-south from left to right. Today's Taipei would sit
nestled in the mountains at the left (north) The map clearly shows the
mountainous spine, the narrow margin of coast on the east (top), and the
broad, fertile plain in the west (bottom).  (Image source: Wikipedia)

We're on! . . . for a trip to Taiwan sometime in the next year or so.

I haven't been back in 20 years, and haven't really had time to explore at my leisure since I was a student in 1979, so half the fun is thinking through all the possibilities.

We have been a little surprised that there is not a travel guide to Taiwan in our local bookstores, so I decided to assemble notes and links in a blog post.

Partly, I was inspired by a list I found that indicates the visitor traffic at the top attractions in Taiwan. (That's the source of the notations below: XX visitors per hour.)

By the way -- there are additional links to some of my favorite Taiwan topics on the Taipei c. 1979 page.

National Palace Museum in Taiwan

For those who can't go . . . . 

As soon as I started to put this list together, I noticed that some of my "musts" for a trip to Taiwan are actually things that people can experience right here in the US!

Palace Museum (102 visitors per hour) - This is number one on my list. In fact, an unprecedented exhibition of works from the Palace Museum begins in San Francisco this week!  (Look for a follow-up post on this topic . . . !)

Rice by Cloud Gate Dance Theater
Cloud Gate Dance Theater - As discussed in a previous post, Cloud Gate has been one of the anchors of my experience of Taiwan. We were fortunate to see Cloud Gate perform here at Berkeley a few months ago. (You can see a trailer of Rice on Youtube.) And I even got to meet Lin Hwai-min at a seminar and talk to him about my time as a student at the Cloud Gate dance studio in 1979-80!

East Gate Dumpling Restaurant (Dongmen Jiaozi Guan) - Back when we were students, this was the place to go for dumplings. Just last week, we discovered a phenomenon that (apparently) many others learned about a long time ago: the Din Tai Fung chain of dumpling restaurants from Taiwan. The first Bay Area branch of Din Tai Fung just opened, in Santa Clara, and we made sure to be among the first customers.

Jiufen (96 visitors per hour) - This wasn't a "thing" back when I lived in Taiwan, at least I don't think it was. But now Jiufen's become a big tourist destination. Those who can't go to Taiwan can experience it via the Hou Hsiao-hsien film City of Sadness and in the imagined town in the film Spirited Away.

Must see (for me)

There are some parts of the Taiwan experience that are particular to me and my time there . . .

Taida Campus (National Taiwan University) - I attended the Stanford Center (Inter-University Center for Chinese Studies) in Taiwan, so the old building on the Taida Campus, and the surrounding area, are musts for any visit. (I even have the map of the area as the background image on my laptop!) With any luck, the azaleas will be in bloom when we're there!

Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple - Okay, I'm not the only person who things Longshan Temple (and adjacent Snake Alley and nearby Ximending entertainment district, 255 visitors per hour)) are cool. But it's a place epitomizes Taiwan for me.

Grand Hotel - There are tons of hotels in Taipei, and almost every one is more convenient than the Grand Hotel.  Some might find the exterior, er, a bit overstated. But I stayed there in the '90s, and I found the rooms beautiful, and the place has the feeling of being a bit of an oasis away from the center of the city.

Some other possibilities . . . 

Taiwan attractions
For those who want to get out of Taipei . . . .

Alishan (111 visitors per hour)

Sun Moon Lake (211 visitors per hour)

Taroko Gorge (113 visitors per hour)

Kenting (215 visitors per hour) - Snorkeling in Taiwan! (Who knew?)

For a future trip

Beigang Mazu Festival - This will need to be a trip unto itself!  (To be continued .... )

Related posts

What I am wondering -- now that I've discovered the way Wang Wen-hsing holds up a mirror to me as much or more than he documents life in Taiwan -- is whether I am ready to bring more of these things about myself up to the surface.

(See Wang Wen-hsing and the Unspeakable: Changes in the Family )

Each story in Taipei People is about a person who ended up in Taiwan after the war. More than anything, the story "Glory's by Blossom Bridge" is about the destiny of so many men who came from the mainland to Taiwan: ending up old and alone.

(See Taipei People: Thinking of Home )

In Taiwan, HHH is to film as Huang Chunming is to literature.  Take, for instance, the story, set in a fishing town on the east coast of Taiwan, about a prostitute who determines to have a baby, and so selects as the father a likely candidate from among her customers (most of whom are workers in the local fishing fleet), gets pregnant, and heads back to the tiny town in which she was born, in order to have the baby.

(See Days for Looking at the Sea )